Office setup: Eight factors for more productivity

17 million people in Germany work in an office. Many of them spend eight or more hours there each day. During that time, the way their offices are set up has a strong influence on productivity.


1. Office furniture

A small desk, a beat-up office chair from 1998, and a computer screen that reflects the sun for half the day. Anyone wanting to demotivate employees and increase workers' chances of having health problems should offer them just such an office. All others should take care to adapt the workstation to meet at least minimal ergonomic requirements in order to make it possible for employees to work healthfully and comfortably without back pain and neck tension. An aesthetically pleasing design will also enhance the feeling of well-being.

There should be enough space on the desk to house a computer screen, keyboard, mouse, and telephone while also being able to spread out and clearly arrange other equipment and documents. A minimum size of 80 by 160 centimeters is quite common. A side table or corner table can offer space for additional documents and materials that need to be within reach. A height-adjustable desk can be individually adjusted for the user's body size. Desk height should be chosen so that the arms can rest horizontally on the table while the body is situated in a normal sitting position. Cables, boxes, or technical devices should not prevent the employee from stretching out his or her legs.

A good office chair should also be individually adjustable and facilitate any change to the sitting position. This is important since the wrong posture can quickly lead to neck and back tension and over a long period of time can have a negative effect on health. Since the spine in particular experiences a lot of strain when a person sits for long periods of time, the chair should have an optimal ergonomic setup that will support it. When seated in a comfortable sitting position, the legs should be bent at a 90 degree angle and the bottom of the feet should be in full contact with the ground. The backrest should rise at least 20 centimeters from the seat, optimally reaching all the way to the shoulder blades. Arm rests provide additional support for working with the keyboard and mouse.

The screen should be large and shouldn't flicker. Optimally the head should be located 50 to 70 centimeters away from the monitor. Reflections from the sun should be avoided.


2. The room

Comfortable, spacious surroundings increase motivation and reduce stress. There should be enough space behind the desk in order to allow the user to easily move around with the chair. It should be possible to stand up without bumping up against something. The ideal air humidity is 40 to 60 percent and the temperature should be 22 to 23 degrees. The windows should allow for regular ventilation and let in enough light during the day to create a pleasant working atmosphere. By the way, those who spend 60 percent of their working time standing and 40 percent sitting experience considerable improvements in back health.


3. Office organization

According to a study of the Stuttgart Frauenhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Automation, ten percent of work time is wasted due to a lack of organization. So having an organized desk is not only important for contact with clients, but also saves time and will heighten productivity.


4. Color design

The right color selection will promote creativity and well-being. At the same time it can also show the esteem in which the company holds its employees while communicating respectability and professionalism to outsiders. The following applies for this: Monotony is tiring and a mix of too many colors will lead to sensory overload. The environment should be composed of just as many splashes of variety as there are resting points.

The effect that colors have is directly related to how you see them. If it becomes difficult to differentiate between objects in our environment, the brain must expend a lot of energy filtering. This is, for example, the case when white furniture sits in front of a white wall. The more clearly the environment differentiates, the fewer difficulties there are in recognizing things. When combining colors, however, it is not recommended that you use a full rainbow of colors since the spectrum is too broad. This is the case with red and blue. The eye can't see both colors equally clearly at one time. It just causes overstimulation. Another criterion to consider when selecting the color is the reflectiveness of the selected color. While some may brighten the room, others absorb too much light and will make the office seem dark.


5. Lighting conditions

The right lighting conditions promote your powers of concentration and vitality. A good lighting concept will also increase your sense of well-being and produce a comfortable room atmosphere. The office should be lit as much by natural light as possible since this kind of light carries with it positive health benefits for the human body. Once the sun has set, indirect light sources are the best choice for morning and evening hours.


6. Noise control

Anyone who has ever spent a long period of time near a multi-lane, high-traffic street knows: noise means stress. If the noise level is too high, it can become almost impossible to concentrate. Especially quiet work such as writing texts should be done in a room where background noise will not be a distraction.


7. Office plants

Plants have a positive influence on the climate of a room. They filter toxic substances out of the air and provide fresh oxygen. And they can do even more. According to a recent study (published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, September 2014), office plants increase productivity by 15 percent. They reduce stress and ensure that you are more physically, cognitively, and emotionally invested in your work.


8. Personal items

Clean desks are obsolete. Personal objects give the feeling of stability and can increase enjoyment of work. Things that trigger positive feelings contribute to productivity. This could be vacation memories, pictures of people dear to you, or even gadgets from a favorite film saga.

What do you have on your desk? Please feel free to use our comment function.


Photo: Jeff Sheldon (

career, effectiveness, management, planned time, time management


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